Thanksgiving with Mother Teresa

Happy Thanksgiving to all of my readers!  I hope you will take a few minutes to read this beautiful story from Mother Teresa, and this prayer from St. Francis of Assisi. As we celebrate our blessings today, let us remember those who are hungry, lonely, and afraid, and let us commit ourselves to doing everything we can to help.

From Mother Teresa:

“One night, a man came to our house to tell me that a Hindu family, a family of eight children, had not eaten anything for days.

They had nothing to eat.

I took enough rice for a meal and went to their house. I could see the hungry faces, the children with their bulging eyes. The sight could not have been more dramatic!

The mother took the rice from my hands, divided it in half and went out.

When she came back a little later, I asked her: ‘Where did you go? What did you do?’

She answered, ‘They also are hungry.’

‘They’ were the people next door, a Muslim family with the same number of children to feed and who did not have any food either. 

That mother was aware of the situation.

She had the courage and the love to share her meager portion of rice with others. In spite of her circumstances, I think she felt very happy to share with her neighbors the little I had taken her.

In order not to take away her happiness, I did not take her anymore rice that night. I took her some more the following day.”

From “Mother Teresa: In My Own Words,” compiled by Jose’ Luis Gonzalez-Balado, 1996

From Francis of Assisi:

“Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,
where there is hatred let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.
Lord, may I not so much seek
to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
Because it is in giving that we receive,
in pardoning that we are pardoned."

Feel free to add your own favorite prayers and quotations in the comment section! Happy Thanksgiving!

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Have a Haiku Holiday!

So I totally stole this idea from my agent, Rachelle Gardner, but I thought it would be a fun exercise for Christmas Eve. Write a haiku, (a 17-syllable poem with 5 syllables in the first line, seven in the second, and five in the third) about Christmas or winter or whatever. You can use mine as an example if you’ve never done it before. Have fun!

Rachel’s Haiku:

tidings of great joy
stuffed in my mailbox—what if
they make me jealous?

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Book Club Discussion: Those evangelicals are so judgmental!

So I’ve been reading through our book club selection - unChristian by David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons—nodding my head and humming in agreement with every negative statistic that the authors uncover.

Eighty-five percent of non-Christians think that Christians are hypocritical, the book says. “Well that’s because they are,” I think to myself, “especially evangelicals.” The first word that comes to most people’s minds when they think about Christians is “anti-gay,” the book says. “Well, that’s because the Religious Right opposes basic civil rights for gays and lesbians,” I tell myself. “They’re giving the rest of us a bad name.” Nearly nine in ten young outsiders say that the term “judgmental” accurately describes present-day Christianity, says the book.  “Well, clearly, that’s the fundamentalist’s fault,” I respond, “THEY’RE the ones being judgmental.”  

...Oh, wait.

As I've been reading through the book’s chapter on judgmentalism, it has become increasingly clear to me that I'm very judgmental myself.  And lately, I've suffer from a sort of reverse-judgmentalism that makes me unrelentingly critical of conservative evangelicals.  In other words, if there’s something wrong with the world, I tend to assume that it’s probably James Dobson’s fault. While the Religious Right blames everything on the liberals or the gay community, I blame everything on the Religious Right. If this sounds like a vicious cycle, it’s probably because it is.

In unChristian, the writers conclude that “stereotypes kill relationships.” (p. 190) Boy, isn't that the truth! And while a good deal of conservative Christians need to be reminded of this, so does a know-it-all blogger from Dayton, Tennessee.

Sure, a lot of Christians I know make ridiculous stereotypes about so-called “liberals” like me. They assume that I’m flighty and that I lack conviction. They assume that I’m just going with the flow, that I haven’t read my Bible enough, and that I “drank the Kool-Aid” when I voted for Obama. Most have no idea how long and hard I have struggled with certain theological issues—like heaven, hell, pluralism, determinism, and free will—and how much I’ve wrestled with certain political positions—abortion, gay marriage, poverty, war. They hear through the grapevine that I’m not so certain that all Buddhist go to hell or that I’m probably going to vote for a democrat and they put me on their prayer request lists, rolling their eyes at my “un-biblical” worldview.

But I do the same thing to them! When I’m on the campus of the Christian college here in town, I find myself making judgments about the students. I assume that they come from privileged Christian homes, that they’ve been sheltered their whole lives, that they believe whatever their professors and pastors tell them to believe, and that they would judge me the second they knew what books were on my bookshelf.  When  I meet someone who identifies himself as Reformed, I  make all kinds of assumptions—that he is stuck up, that he thinks Calvin must sit on the right hand of the Father, that he delights in the idea of people being predestined for hell, that he will call me “uninformed” and “unenlightened” when he finds out that I’ve explored Open Theism.

(Notice how my judgment so often corresponds with my own defensiveness and insecurity. Hmm....)

Sometimes I tell myself that it’s okay to be critical of the religious establishment because Jesus was critical of the religious establishment.  But I think this is a cop-out. I can be critical of certain theologies and positions, without looking down my nose at those who hold to them. Besides, Jesus had unique authority when it came to correcting the Pharisees, and He gave very clear instructions regarding judgment to those who wanted to follow Him:

“Do not judge so that you will not be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? [I always imagine that the people listening to Jesus laughed a little at this point.] You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” (Matthew 7:1-5)

So, if my standard of judgment is judgmentalism, where does that leave me?  Could I measure up to my own standards? When I go around barking about how conservative evangelicals need to pry the log of judgmentalism out of their eyes, do I make a fool of myself with my own?

 I know what it feels like to get labeled. It’s awful, and I hate it. But if I intend to treat people the way I want to be treated, I’ve got to ease up on my more conservative brothers and sisters in Christ—even the Calvinists.  I’ve got to remember that a person is not defined by his or her religious, political, or denominational affiliation. Everyone has a story as deep and varied and nuanced as my own.   

It’s so much easier to blame other people than it is to “be the change” and simly do what Jesus said to do. (If you just made a judgment on my use of the phrase "be the change" consider yourself caught in the act!)

If Christian are ever going to correct the attitudes identified in “unChristian,” we’ve got to start with our attitudes toward one another. And I’ve got to start with myself.

***

So, who do you find yourself judging? Christians? Non-Christians? Republicans? Democrats? Calvinists? Dispensationalists? People who still listen to Boy Bands? How do we break the vicious cycle of judgment?

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Finish the Sentence Friday: Confession

So Bob Jones University issued an official apology this week for its racist policies. Believe it or not, Bob Jones refused to admit black students until 1971 and banned interracial dating until 2000. A statement on their Web site said that these rules were shaped “by culture instead of the Bible.”

Lest we get too proud and look down our noses at the “fundies,” let’s remember that all Christians carry the burdened of a troubled history.

I’m reminded of the chapter in Donald Miller’s book Blue Like Jazz in which he and his friends set up a confession booth at Reed College. They used it to apologize to their classmates on behalf of the Christian community for everything from the Crusades to Columbus to televangelists.

So, in that spirit, finish the following sentence: 

As a follower of Christ, I am sorry for...

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What Evangelicals Do Well

Scot McKnight posted some interesting thoughts on his blog last week about what evangelicals do well. I can often be critical of certain aspects of evangelicalism, so this was a good reminder for me that the movement has a lot of redeeming qualities.

McKnight points out that evangelicals are good at: 1) being ecumenical, 2) stressing the importance of the new birth, 3) emphasizing theology, and 3) urging personal transformation.

I think I agree...although I sometimes feel that evangelicals over-emphasize the importance of theology to the detriment of personal transformation.

What do you think? What else are evangelicals doing well?

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